We knew that Raymond Jessurun was an amazing leader, organizer, and dementia advocate from our previous work with him in Philipsburg, St. Maarten. But we had no idea what a powerhouse performer he was until recently, when we presented with him at the island’s White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation.
On our way to the event, Raymond told us, “We have a mixture of people coming together, people from all over the world, people of varying abilities. We want to invite joy into their lives. We want everyone to connect and have fun together.” 
Ron and I loved the idea and focused on music and laughter as a common pathway. When we arrived at the care center, which is managed by the White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation, the  community area was filled with light: the windows opened to the temperate breeze and lush outdoors. Indoors, in a large and cheerful room, people gathered in a semi-circle. Some had lived in Philipsburg all their lives. Others had relocated from other islands or countries, including Holland, Curaçao, St. Kitts, and Guyana.
Raymond opened our session by telling everyone, “I want you to teach Deborah and Ron something about yourselves and about our country.”
We all shared specific songs that reminded us of our families. Raymond jazzed us up by sliding into the center of the circle with a rousing a cappella rendition of  Come on Let’s Twist Again. After a few bars, people were dancing in their seats. We kept the movement going as we conducted When the Saints Come Marching In, first in a stately tempo, then fast. We talked about the times of the day we liked to sing. Several of the care staff said they liked to sing throughout the day. One woman enjoyed singing in the afternoons. Another sang a poignant favorite of hers, about how she longed for someone to hold at night. She received a heartfelt round of applause.
As part of our interaction about music and movement, we showed a video of Drum Safari engaging everyone in percussive activity during one of our KC Memory Cafes. We ended our session by giggling our way through some Laughter Yoga exercises, including drinking a delicious, no-cal, laughter milkshake.
As a final treat, everyone serenaded us with a traditional national song, O Sweet Saint Maarten Land. (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41capjzf7iQ) The ending stanza captures a taste of this beautiful country, but fails to mention its amazing people: 
“Oh I love thy Paradise,
Nature beauty fairly nice,
Oh I love thy Paradise,
Nature beauty fairly nice.”

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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Listening to favorite songs. Singing. Conducting an imaginary orchestra. Looking at art. Cooking and baking. Laughing. These are just a few of the topics we discussed when presenting to care partners in St. Thomas.  

Recently we gathered with professional and family care partners, along with friends and advocates, to share ideas for staying connected through the dementia and care partners’ journey.

Everyone lit up as we all thought of favorite songs that carried positive memories. These “personal playlist” songs are the foundation of the internationally acclaimed Music & Memory program (https://musicandmemory.org) developed by Dan Cohen and beautifully documented in the movie Alive Inside. As we moved on to singing, one woman described how her mother still knew all the words to her favorite hymns. Another attendee, who had a daughter with special needs, described how singing allowed her daughter to find and keep her voice. Maestro David Dworkin would have relished the zest with which our group practiced his dynamic Conductorcize program. We sang the melody to When the Saints Come Marching In, and conducted away, raising our arms, our voices, and almost, the roof.

“What about cooking and baking?” one woman asked. “How can my mother continue her passion for those when she can no longer use the stove?” 

Ron and I both identified with that question, as our moms had been avid bakers. We talked about a variety of ways to stay safely engaged in creating food, including setting up a quiet table just outside the kitchen for making dishes together. We discussed the joys of measuring, blending, chopping, and stirring, while carrying on a companionable conversation. Making fruit and vegetable salads, snapping green beans, icing cupcakes, making cookies serve as a few delicious examples. There are so many ways we can adapt hobbies and add in creativity and the arts so all of us can live with meaning and purpose.  ###

Many thanks to Arleen Evans O’Reilly, Sandra Bradley, and their team for hosting us.                               And thanks to Sandra Bradley for taking the photos.

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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First we get people’s toes tapping and hands clapping with live musical performances from some of Kansas City’s great musicians. Then KC Movies & Memories’ new focus on beloved movie musicals keeps our audience engaged and connected. This is a lively,  intergenerational experience that families can easily replicate. Please see our invitation below. 

Our November program delighted guests with an eclectic array of harp music, performed by Juli Sackman. We followed that with the story of the award-winning movie Oklahoma, punctuated by lively song and dance numbers. Here is the link to that experience. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56FbaPmCIbQ&feature=youtu.be 

In December, we were wowed by Indian Hills Middle School eighth grade choir. They entertained us with intricate renditions of holiday tunes. Then, Jim Poplau, manager of the Waldo Library, shared one of his favorite holiday films, White Christmas. Watching the 1954 trailer of the film, in Vista-Vision, reminded many of the rare childhood treat of attending the cinema. Jim regaled us with the complicated plot of the film and shared some of the beloved songs, including Sisters, Count Your Blessings and of course White Christmas, which we all sang along with. 

Here’s a link to that experience:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jN2p3vw3jyI&t=13s 

Invitation: If you’d like to add some musical movie offerings to your holiday gathering, simply email us at creativity@pobox.com and we’ll send you a PDF featuring YouTube song clips and scripts you can modify for your family.  These Movies-in-a Minute are courtesy of the Kansas City Public Library and The Creativity Connection.

Here’s to a lovely and meaningful holiday season.

 

 

 

 

 

What we look for in our dementia-friendly films.

  • Uplifting content
  • A straightforward narrative that’s easy to follow.
  • A subject matter that people might identify with
  • No violence and a minimum of startling or loud noises 
  • No subtitles or complicated foreign accents
  • Familiar or soothing music

 

Please join us for our Holiday Memory Cafe…

 

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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At first, the checklist of “can’t do’s” was daunting. No more playing the cutthroat card game Hearts. No more leisurely Scrabble sessions, with unabridged dictionary and bowl of fancy mixed nuts at the ready. No more hunkering in at the movie theater for a sparkling new release. With my mom’s dementia, so many of our traditional holiday activities simply wouldn’t work. So we had to think creatively and find ways to bring joy to the holidays with dementia friendly family  activities.

We created a photography/collaging/ scrapbooking project with a Thanksgiving themed story that starred all of us, The Little Kitchen that Could. I wrote up a simple story that featured a world famous chef, my brother, a series of sous chefs, the rest of the family, and my terrified pots and pans. Terrified because after a quiet life of heating up an occasional cup of water for tea, they were being forced into actual cooking. We all pasted faces on the pots and pans, posed for photos, and added ideas to the storyline. Once we developed the pictures, we sat around the dining room table and put the scrapbook together, while listening to my parent’s favorite old 40s melodies, and eating our traditional fancy mixed nuts.

This project gave our gatherings a new focus, helped us adapt treasured traditions and transition to new dementia

Adding “traditions” enriched our family gatherings.

Here are some additional ideas to cheer on your family.

  • Create a holiday play list to cheer you all on. If you’re prone to winter blues, include songs that brighten your spirits. If you don’t celebrate the holiday, use favorite winter or seasonal songs. Listen to these songs with your partner who has dementia and with family and friends.
  • Create a large print sing-along book for seasonal songfests. Include family favorites, personal seasonal tunes, and other tunes that are fun to sing or hum to.
  • Invite talented relatives or friends to share their musical or dance abilities.
  • If your partner likes animals, invite well behaved pets to come to your gatherings, offering a creature to nurture and observe and admire.
  • Create a family “giving back” project you can all be part of, so your partner is able to contribute to others. This can be as simple as icing cookies for a women’s shelter or making dog biscuits for an animal shelter.
  • Share favorite poems, by reading them call-and- response, one person reading, “T’was the night before Christmas,” and others repeating the line. Create your own family poem, as something to include in your holiday card or on your social media.
  • Add in laughter. Use the ha ha chorus, substituting “ha ha’s” for the words of favorite songs. You’ll find yourself chucking within seconds.
  • Arrange flowers together for a centerpiece, paying attention to colors, textures and aromas. Set the table together.
  • Play favorite music and talk about it, saying, “What does that song remind you of?”
  • Create a Taste Book, a scrapbook of favored recipes and memories around these foods. Plan to make or bake a recipe or two together.

Several esteemed experts and organizations helped me create this list of dementia friendly holiday activities. For more information about their, visit:

Natasha Goldstein-Levitas, MA, BC-DMT   natashagoldstein.com

Dan Cohen  Music and Memory

Gary Glazner  Alzheimer’s Poetry Project

Dr. Madan Kataria  Laughter Yoga

The team at the  Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

Nettie Harper and Kelly Gilligan  Inspired Memory Care, Inc.

Judith Fertig, novelist and cookbook author  Judith Fertig

 

Click to view informative and inspiring short videos on our YouTube channel

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.  

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Will we ever be too old to enjoy balloon animals? we’ve often wondered. After seeing Quixotic bring magic and music to KC Memory Cafe, our answer is a resounding, “No!” Along with 90 other guests, we were on the edge of our chairs, watching balloon maestro David Brenn transform simple balloons into pooches, butterflies, eyeglasses, and flowers. The crowd raised their hands, trying to catch the colorful flying balloons.  They laughed at the little dog that could instantly turn into a poodle and applauded at the balloon jetpack.

The music was mesmerizing, a delightful intertwining of violin and cello notes, accented by a graceful dancer and an enthralling singer. Everyone swayed to the sounds of an Irish jig, hummed along with Fly Me to the Moon and The Girl from Ipanema, and watched the balloons fly during Cheek to Cheek.

Beyond the fantastic talent of the performers was their warmth and caring. They created this low sensory, dementia friendly program and they were so happy to be sharing their gifts with us. And we were totally wowed!

Click here to experience the magic for yourself.

 

And visit Quixotic’s website to learn more about their upcoming public performances. 

Click to view informative and inspiring short videos on our YouTube channel

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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The tables are scattered with pine cones, sycamore leaves, and decorative branches, along with bottles of glue, vivid construction paper, and pots of colorful paint. Our KC Memory Cafe begins with sharing memories of camping, scouting, or outdoor activities. Then a lively group of Girl Scouts leads us in song, reminding us to, “Make new friends, But keep the old, One is silver, And the other gold.” 

After our singalong, cafe guests experiment with the art supplies and natural objects. They dip pine cones into red paint and brush blue across crusty leaves. They paint a stick bright orange and wrap it with yarn. The Girl Scouts weave through the artists, pouring extra paint, distributing additional papers, and assisting when asked. The guests work, admire, chat, and laugh as these creative projects emerge. By the end of the cafe, the tables are covered with innovative art and people are smiling as they return home. 

Click here for a look at our cafe.

 

Want to introduce more nature into your lives?

“Research shows that nature-based activity is therapeutic and is essentially a form of treatment for dementia symptoms, helping a person remain at home longer,” says Garuth Chalfont PhD, American Society of Landscape Architects, and author of the. Dementia Green Care Handbook.       

Gathering flowers, walking a tree-lined sidewalk, plucking a cherry tomato off its vine, watering a house plant, gazing out the window at chickadees—these meaningful natural activities increase pleasure, relaxation, social interactions, and sensory stimulation. 

Here are a few other ideas:

• Create observation spots in your living space so you can enjoy looking outdoors. Even watching the weather helps people feel engaged in the natural environment.

• Improve your view with interesting additions, such as bird feeders and birdhouses, bubbling fountains, wind chimes, wind spinners, outdoor sculpture, and various plants and herbs. 

• Add resilient plants to your home.

• Bring in natural objects to touch, identify, arrange, draw and craft with. 

• Visit garden centers, parks, playgrounds, and zoos for a rich natural experience.

• Increase your popularity by taking a dog with you on a walk, either your own or borrow your neighbor’s pup. 

Click to view informative and inspiring short videos on our YouTube channel

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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A wizard, a peasant, a royal hat maker, and a royal candy maker walked into the Plaza Library. But they were not here to check out books on their respective trades: they were with several other RenFest stars, eager to present at the KC Memory Cafe. 

Mia Moore shared the inside story of getting into her complicated costume as the Renfest character of Molly William, Lady Steward of the Household. First, she slipped on a gauzy white under-blouse with an appealing ruff around the neck. Then, she created a luscious hour-glass shape by putting on a corset. In the olden days, the corsets were made with whale bones. But Mia was ecologically correct and chose industrial cables for hers. A wide brown skirt, made of upholstery materials, was next, followed by a lady’s doublet, with dozens of small fabric covered buttons. Getting all buttoned up took at least ten minutes, and she kept us quite entertained throughout the process. Her final adornment was a jaunty hat.

Click here to get the RenFest inside story.

“It wouldn’t be proper to go around with my hair uncovered. Plus, during the Renaissance, people didn’t bathe that often. Their hair might be dirty and lice-ridden, which the hat kindly covered,” she told us.

As each of the performers shared information about their characters, we could feel their passion for history and for this fascinating time period. 

The wizard assured us, he would never walk about London with his high pointed burlap hat and his quartz-topped staff; for that, he would have been locked up in a mental hospital. Instead, he would have lived in a rural setting and been considered an alchemist. The peasant told us, “The amount of cloth in a middle class woman’s skirt would be enough for me and my family for a year.”  

Cloth was quite valuable and all fabrics were recycled and passed down, mended and amended until they were nothing but scraps. 

How often does a person have a chance to touch an ostrich feather fan or stroke the soft pink velvet of the royal candy maker’s doublet? Our performers walked about the room, greeting individuals, sharing stories about their characters and clothing, and letting us examine their specially made costumes.

It was a glorious experience, rich with history, energy, and imagination.

Click to view informative and inspiring short videos on our YouTube channel

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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“Drumming ultimately has therapeutic value, providing the emotional and physical benefits collectively known as “drummer’s high,” an endorphin rush that can only be stimulated by playing music, not simply listening to it. …The endorphin-filled act of drumming increases positive emotions and leads people to work together in a more cooperative fashion.”                            The Neuroscience of Drumming

 

 

 

Want to experience your own drummer’s high?

Click here and tap along to the beat.

The beat goes on at KC Memory Cafe. Brandon Draper of Drum Safari reminds us how connected we all are by tapping his hand on the table. “No matter where we come from, we all share this internal rhythm, our heartbeat,” he tells us. We tap along with him, and follow his lead as he introduces other more complex beats. Ninety of us are gathered on the lower level of the Plaza Library to experience the magic of drumming, guided by Brandon, his wife, and two daughters. He introduces us to ancient drums and to contemporary instruments. After our briefing in the powerful history of drumming, we all have an opportunity to experience the “drummer’s high.” 

The excitement and energy in the room builds as we all make music together. We are laughing, banging away, singing call and response, and thoroughly engaged in creating cooperative sounds.

People lingered for a long time afterwards, drawn together by the shared experience. 

Though Brandon has shared his drumming skills many times, performing at the KC Memory Care touched him deeply.  He was thinking of his beloved grandmother, who had lived with dementia. He stayed connected with her through music. “To be here, sharing with all of you, meant so much to me,” he told us.

Our thanks to the wonderful team from Santa Marta Retirement Center, who nourished us with delicious snacks and helped serve everyone. Thanks also to Pam and Beverly, who helped nurture, serve, encourage and keep the beat going on.  Want to volunteer or get on our email list? Just contact Heather Harrison, heatherharrison@kclibrary.org 816-701-3763

Click to view informative and inspiring short videos on our YouTube channel

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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The buzz of conversation ceased as singer/actor Robert Gibby Brand stepped up to the microphone. His accompanist, pianist Robert Pherigo, played the opening bars of Oh, What a Beautiful Morning and Brand soared into the “Bright golden haze on the meadow.” Instantly the audience, ages two to 85 plus, was listening raptly. Brand continued his concert, inviting us to sing along on It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, and melting us with the Cole Porter classic Night and Day. Brand told us the story behind each song and left us wildly applauding after performing Some Enchanted Evening.  It was some enchanted beautiful morning at the monthly KC Movies & Memories program. 

But the enchantment didn’t stop there. First we watched the Oscar nominated short, Room on the Broom, which illustrated the joys and challenges of inclusion in a most creative, playful, and poignant way. 

One of the characters said plaintively, “I am a bird, as green as can be. Is there room on the broom, for a bird like me?” The witch’s clingy cat captured that part in most of us that doesn’t want to share, that believes there is not enough. But the witch reminded us, “Yes, there is room.”

Afterwards we discussed the movie, asking who identified with the clingy cat. All of us had to raise our hands. Then we asked who identified with the witch, who welcomed everyone, and there was a large showing of hands.  We also talked about favorite characters and what parts of the film we liked best.  

 

 

To finish our mini film-fest, we played an inspiring clip from a Mr. Rogers show, and showed Purl, an 8-minute Pixar film, about how our differences can enrich our lives. 

It was an inspiring program and everyone left uplifted and delightfully sated by our fresh-made popcorn and other treats.

For a taste of Some Enchanted Beautiful Morning, click here. 

A big thanks to our volunteers, Sharon, Julie, and Pam, and to our generous hosts, The Plaza Library.  

Want to continue the magic at home?

Room on the Broom is a 20-minute  film that is fun for all ages, while being both entertaining and profound. You can easily generate open-ended questions and invite comments and conversation. We talked about, “If you were an animal, which animal would you like to be?” “Who did you identify with?” “What were your favorite parts of the movie?” “Have you ever not wanted to share?”

Want to continue the magic with us?  Mark your calendars for the first Wednesday of each month at 10:30. Please join us for our next cafe and our next movie program.  For more information, contact Deborah at creativity@pobox.com 

Click to view informative and inspiring short videos on our YouTube channel

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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